A Reassessment of the Role of Animals at the Etton Causewayed Enclosure
Parmenter, Philippa Claire Rousell
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
In recent years, causewayed enclosures have come to be regarded as being ceremonial or ritual sites. This classification is derived from a perceived lack of evidence pertaining to domestic settlement, in the form of houses and ‘typical’ domestic animal bone assemblages, and a perceived abundance of ‘atypical’ material and methods of deposition. This thesis explores the animal bone from the Etton causewayed enclosure in order to ascertain whether these perceptions have an empirical basis. Etton was excavated in the 1980s, and the published literature relating to the site appeared to conform to the stereotypes established for causewayed enclosure sites, however during preliminary analysis, it became clear that the animal bone data was not complete and that many of the inferences regarding the role of animals at Etton were the result of presumption or data being taken out of context. Specifically, this thesis looks at the nature of the fractures on the animal bones from Etton, and also from a similar causewayed enclosure at Staines in order to establish a clear taphonomic history for the faunal remains on the site, from which aspects of the role of animals can be deduced. In archaeological literature the absence of ‘fresh’, or helical fractures (which tend to result from the conscious decision to break a bone for marrow) is said to support the hypothesis that sites of this type were not domestic in nature. This assertion has been made despite the fact that no detailed studies into bone fracture at Neolithic sites have ever been undertaken. This thesis demonstrates that at both Etton and Staines, fresh fractures were abundant and considers the potential implications of this for these sites. In so doing it highlights the dangers of presuming evidence exists or does not exist, and of cherry-picking data to fit a preordained ideal rather than allowing the data to speak for itself. At Etton and Staines, the animal bone speaks not necessarily of a categorically ceremonial or ritual economy, divorced from the domestic economy of the time, but of a more mundane economy, with occasional ‘atypical’ activity, that was standard for the inhabitants of causewayed enclosures, whether at this type of site or elsewhere.
University of Exeter
PhD in Archaeology